Club semi-final fare reflects county dominance

One glance at this weekend’s fixture programme should be enough for the penny to drop. You certainly don’t need a third-level degree to take from it that the dominance of certain counties on the big stage is perfectly mirrored at club level.

Club semi-final fare reflects county dominance

In Ennis tomorrow afternoon, there’s an All-Ireland junior and intermediate club football semi-final double-header. Both games bring together the champions of Kerry and Mayo.

In the corresponding semi-finals at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh, Tyrone are represented on the double.

It’s no different in the hurling.

Kilkenny’s Mooncoin are in Trim for an All-Ireland junior semi against Lámh Dhearg of Antrim, while Carrickshock head to O’Moore Park for the penultimate round of the intermediate championship.

Both Kilkenny teams are heavily fancied to advance to Croke Park. The same with the Tyrone pair of Pomeroy and Rock St Patrick’s. And should Kenmare and Glenbeigh-Glencar secure a Kerry double in Ennis, it will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody.

Indeed, it’s become almost mandatory at this time of year to set out the remarkable dominance of Kerry clubs in the lower tier competitions. You’re probably well-versed on them at this stage, but one more time won’t hurt.

Since the first playing of the All-Ireland junior and intermediate club football deciders at Croke Park in the spring of 2005, on only two occasions (2008 and ’14) have Kerry clubs been absent on the concluding afternoon of action. For the past two springs and also in 2009, Kerry clubs took home both pieces of silverware.

Mike Quirke’s theory is this: “The level these clubs are playing at in their own county is really, really high. There is no game where you can simply coast by.

“There is huge, huge interest in all the divisional, club and county championships in Kerry. The interest is so strong because every game is competitive and unpredictable.”

Jimmy Keane, who guided Brosna to All-Ireland junior glory in 2015, holds a similar view.

“Any club that comes out of Kerry stands a great chance of winning an All-Ireland because if you come out of Kerry, you’ll certainly earn it.”

Westport manager Damian Loftus told the Mayo News this week that his team would have to produce a performance that is “six to eight points better than anything we have done so far” if they are to live with a Kenmare side for whom 2016 All-Ireland-winning minor captain Sean O’Sean and Kerry senior Stephen O’Brien have been in imperious form.

“There’s no such thing as a bad Kerry team and they’re 1/3 to win the All-Ireland outright,” Loftus remarked.

It is much the same story in Kilkenny.

They’ve taken three of the last four All-Irelands in both junior and intermediate. Carrickshock weren’t so fortunate when losing out to Kiladangan of Tipperary in 2005. They’re back within an hour of Croker and one of the few survivors from that team, eight-time All-Ireland medallist Richie Power, is doing everything in his power to add an All-Ireland club medal to the long list of trinkets he picked up whilst operating in the black and amber.

Power was advised by surgeons last year to pack in the hurling because of chronic problems with his left knee. He was a bit-part player in Carrickshock’s run to Kilkenny and Leinster glory, but there are growing murmurs that the 31-year-old could be involved from the off tomorrow.

“If we are training in Piltown at say 7.30pm, Richie has to go to the gym in Hugginstown at 6.30pm to work on the bike for 40 minutes before his knee is loose enough to train,” manager Tommy Shefflin told the Kilkenny People.

“All the boys can see what Richie is doing to try and be part of this dream to win an All-Ireland for Carrickshock.”

Is it any wonder the roll of honours read as they do?

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